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Washington Commanders bench Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz back as starter

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has decided that Carson Wentz as the team’s starting quarterback gives them their best chance to secure a postseason spot in 2022.

On Wednesday morning, the team announced that Taylor Heinicke’s nine-week run as their starting quarterback has come to an end and that the man he replaced in Week 7 would be reinstalled in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns.

After getting off to a 2-4 start to the season, Heinicke took over as the team’s starting QB in Week 7 after Wentz suffered a fractured finger in a Thursday night win against the Chicago Bears. The Commanders seemed headed to a losing season, however, Heinicke and their defense helped return them to playoff contention with a 5-1 run heading into Week 13.

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However, in the last three games, the Washington Commanders have endangered their previously strong chances of reaching the postseason with a 0-2-1 run that includes a frustrating 20-12 loss to division rivals the Giants at home on “Monday Night Football” two weeks ago. They are now a game and a half behind New York in the NFL standings and barely hold onto the final spot in the NFC playoffs.

Will Carson Wentz make a difference for Washington Commanders in Week 17?

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Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz was able to knock off a bit of the rust last week after replacing Heinicke in the fourth quarter of a disastrous 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16. However, will he be a notable upgrade over the five-year veteran on Sunday?

While Heincke has played a few more games this season than Wentz, their statistics are fairly similar. Heinicke only has one more touchdown and the same amount of interceptions in only 11 more attempts. Meaning, with Wentz in the lineup the coaching staff was far more aggressive in trying to stretch the field and go for big plays in the passing game than go with a run-heavy attack as they have in recent weeks.

  • Carson Wentz stats (2022): 1,612 passing yards, 11 TD, 6 INT 86.3 passer rating

One factor that could allow the offense to flourish with Wentz is that starting running back Brian Robinson Jr. was not available for much of the time the former Colts and Eagles QB was on the field. He has been an upgrade at the position over Antonio Gibson since taking over as the starter.

If Wentz has more of a threat on the ground behind him this time, it could open up more opportunities in the passing game than the 29-year-old had during his six starts this season.

In the end, Carson Wentz’s ability to limit his turnovers will be the biggest key in his and the Washington Commanders’ success in the final two games of the season. On Sunday, the Commanders face the Browns at 1 PM ET, followed by a matchup with the Cowboys next week.

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